London bid to bus in French drivers

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A LONDON bus company is recruiting French drivers because British applicants cannot be found. London United, which covers south and south west London, has employed more than 50 Frenchmen since its cross-channel recruitment started last September.

Eight are on the buses and a further 45 are completing their training.The firm plans to employ 100.The cross-channel recruitment drive was the idea of London United's French parent company, Transdev, because unemployment is higher in France.

The new drivers, who are paid pounds 270 for a 35-hour week, are given courses in English and a five-day refresher course reminding them to drive on the left. The company has received hundreds of applications from France.

One of the first French drivers, Jean-Gustave Pinchon, said he moved to escape France's high unemployment rate. Mr Pinchon, 35, from Paris, said: "In the beginning I was afraid of hitting trees when driving the double-deckers but I soon got used to it."

Mr Jeremy Pons, 24, from Paris, who began driving for London United last September said: " I was living in Sarcelles in northern Paris where there is a very high crime rate and a lot of violence. My life here is much better and I feel safer when I go out. I love the parks and greenery, and I have no plans to return to France."

London United has reported no problems but a spokesman added: "The only difficulties they have are to do with understanding strong accents and slang and coping with the depot canteen which they say is not up to French standards. They are very disappointed it does not serve wine or beer."